Resistance to Evidence

Reading Slay the Spire discussions on Steam has given me insight on resistance to updating based on evidence. I am used to this in political discussions, where people often double down when presented with counter-evidence, but seeing it in the microcosm is remarkable.

At any given time, there are usually threads on the front page arguing that (1) some element of the game is too difficult and/or impossible and (2) that the game as a whole is too difficult and/or impossible. There is also a mix of people who mean “impossible” literally or as hyperbole. #1 is usually one of the boss fights, and people complaining about a particular element rather than the game as a whole are usually more open to advice. “Yes, that boss does 75 damage in a turn if you give it 12 rounds to power up and use no damage counters. Here are six tactics for defeating it, and here are some videos.” They might still see the boss as too difficult, and certainly each of the end bosses is designed to punish a certain playstyle, but it is hard to dispute that at least 54.4% of players have beaten each of the final bosses.

“Hard to dispute,” I say, but people do. A game where the majority of owners have beaten it is frequently described as “impossible.” In each of these threads, someone will reply with screenshots and video links, or perhaps typed lists of beginner tips. You can also see people very tired of seeing a new version of the same thread each week. “Git gud” really does apply to Slay the Spire, and you can see my own journey from “dying in the first level” to “winning pretty consistently” in the Slay the Spire category here. If you’re working on that yourself, you might be interested in JoINrbs’s “overexplaining” series on YouTube, talking through each step of the game on the highest difficulty.

I suspect many people take “git gud” personally. If I am failing, something is going wrong. It can’t be me. Therefore the game must be wrong. Pointing out that it is you is therefore a dishonest personal attack. Doing so with detailed evidence of what you are doing wrong is just evidence of a toxic environment full of fanboys. When people disappear during these negative threads, I wonder what mix we have of people who quietly took the advice, people who had no response and stormed away, and people who never really joined the discussion after the initial complaint (don’t worry; there is always someone ready to pursue a complaint).

This is probably where someone should call me a hypocrite for what I say about Hearthstone. In my defense, I would say that my main critique about Hearthstone’s dungeon runs are their randomness. There are large swings that are mostly outside player control. But you can get better. And even were the game a complete roll of the dice, eventually the dice come up in your favor.

: Zubon

4 thoughts on “Resistance to Evidence”

  1. Practical advice for video-game problems is widely available at the touch of a search engine. Players who are able to “git gud” know how to find it already. When others express anguish over their frustration, empathy, not problem-solving, is what is being sought.

    I don’t believe there is ever a just use of the term “git gud”, or a just expression of the sentiment that underlies it. Regardless of how many players have beaten a given boss, it clearly remains possible for the same boss to be – literally – impossible for others. No amount of advice, videos or practice will or can enable every player, who tries, to “git gud” enough to succeed. If that were so, we could all breach the tape alongside Usain Bolt, should we but desire it enough. Equally, hyperbolic exaggeration offers a long-established and well-understood safety valve for an emotional response that is causing pain or distress.

    This is why I believe that no advice, no matter whether politely phrased or fulsomely accompanied by evidence, justifies or excuses an exhortation, however well-disguised, to “git gud”. If opprobrium is to be handed out to anyone (and I’d argue that it should not be, except in very rare and exceptional circumstances) it should be reserved for those who supply the inappropriate response, rather than to those whose pain and distress have called that response into being.

    1. I very much appreciate this comment. Zubon, I don’t disagree with your post, don’t get me wrong (I’ve been reading this site silently for years, and you always are fun to read), but I really think Bhag hit the nail on the head. The positive comments you mentioned on how to approach bosses are encouraging, as just like how the original poster may have left the conversation, someone may look it up far in the future who does want actual help. “git gud” however, is the equivalent of “Stop whining, scrub”, and feels like the burnt out little league coaches “rub some dirt on it”. It’s a way to just detach yourself from the situation.

    2. I’ll have some longer comments later, but I should note that this is only true to the extent that it is irrelevant to the example: “Regardless of how many players have beaten a given boss, it clearly remains possible for the same boss to be – literally – impossible for others.” There are certainly cases where this can be true, as in the physical demands needed for the Usain Bolt hyperbole. Some players will be physically incapable of beating some games. Many other games, however, are beatable with algorithms, and anyone can beat the same boss with the same approach. If something is turn-based without overwhelming randomness, anyone who is physically capable of playing the game (clicking) is capable of the same feats. Slay the Spire has fixed seed values, so it is one of those games where someone can demonstrate that (whether?) any given seed is possible and exactly how.

      To take an obvious example, every human being who can follow basic instructions can take any game of Tic Tac Toe to a stalemate. It is a solved problem, and absolutely anyone can reach the same level of perfect mastery. It has a low skill ceiling and known outcomes.

      The question then becomes where a game falls on the continuum from Tic Tac Toe to 100 meter dash.

  2. The real world examples of how this applies is also ample in our society right now for other challenges in life, work, etc.

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